Penquis girls basketball will play a JV-only schedule

MILO — As a result of only having six players near the end of the first two weeks of practices, Penquis Valley High School will not have a varsity girls basketball team in the 2023-24 season. After looking at several options, the plan is to have a junior varsity program this winter with a to be determined schedule of eight to 10 games.

“Last Thursday evening we had to make a difficult decision concerning our girls basketball season at the varsity level,” Athletic Director Jason Mills told the SAD 41 School Board during a Dec. 6 meeting. He said by that day there were only six girls on the roster.

Per the Maine Principals’ Association rules, if a varsity team begins the regular season and then is unable to finish, the program is ineligible to play at the varsity level for the ensuing two years. Mills said if this was to happen to the Patriot girls in 2023-24, then current freshmen could not have varsity basketball until their senior season.

He said he could not in good conscience attempt an 18-game season with only six players before potential injuries, academic eligibility checks, illness, and other factors that could impact the roster. “In order to save the season it’s what needed to be done,” Mills said, saying he still feels bad about not having girls varsity basketball at the school.

Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom 
PATRIOTS VS. PATRIOTS — Then Penquis Valley High School senior Imaan Ali and Bangor Christian freshman Lyndsie Durost fight for a rebound during a game back in January, with Patriot seniors Aileen Strout (20) and Rachel Broussard (14) looking on. This season the Penquis girls will play a JV-only schedule.

A cooperative agreement was considered. Mills said he checked with Piscatquis Community High School of Guilford — which has a 9-player roster — but after letting Penquis players and parents think about this none wanted to pursue this option with its half hour-plus to and from ride for practices and games.

Mills said senior Addison Conklin will be playing for Foxcroft Academy as a cooperative agreement was reached with the Dover-Foxcroft secondary school. The athletic director said this needed to be sent in to the MPA before the start of the regular season on Friday, Dec. 8. He also said despite being a Class B school, Foxcroft Academy only has 15 girls between its varsity and JV teams.

Under a JV-only schedule, there is no punishment if a game is canceled and not made up as this level of competition is not sponsored by the MPA. Mills said head coach Molly McGinn met with her players the day before the school board meeting and agreed to a JV schedule of eight to 10 games with three or four practice days — dates and opponents are to be determined.

“I just don’t want them to go all winter without doing anything because if they don’t touch a basketball then we may be in the same boat next year,” Mills said. He said the girls middle school team has a strong number of players.

The athletic director said lower roster numbers are becoming more common around the state. He said neighboring Penobscot Valley High School of Howland only has nine players and Ashland District High School has opted to not have varsity basketball in 2023-24.

When asked about the trend, Mills said middle school basketball teams still have an ample number of players but some of these students opt not to continue the sport in high school. He said with five on the court at a time and only a few reserves getting regular playing time, some players decide against playing high school basketball if they are going to spend much of the game on the bench.

Mills was asked about the possibility of having eighth-graders play varsity, and he said in order for schools to do this the total female enrollment has to be 60 or less and Penquis has 85 girls.

The athletic director said he wants to still have starting lineups announced and the cheer team and band perform for the girls JV games. “We’re going to try to treat it like a regular varsity game, there just won’t be any Heal Points,” he said.

Last season the Penquis girls finished at 9-9, but were only 15th among 19 teams in the Class C North standings and did not qualify for the postseason.

Earlier in the meeting the school board appointed the winter sports coaches. McGinn and girls JV coach Beth Heal were approved before the JV plan was unveiled by Mills.

“They did begin the season, so we had a couple of weeks where the girls were practicing,” Superintendent Darcie Fournier said, saying she wanted the coaches to be compensated for their time.

Sam Brown will lead the high school boys and Camron Bailey will coach the JV. The high school cheering team will be headed up by Tammy Murano.

For the middle school the boys and girls coaches are Erika Landry and Derek Perkins respectively, and Amanda Beckwith will coach the cheer squad.

In other business, Director of Facilities Dillon Watters mentioned the entire Penquis Valley School roof will need to be replaced. He said the covering is more than two decades old and cannot be fixed and the cost could be several million dollars – Watters will know more after meeting with a contractor later in the month.

Watters said the roof would be replaced in sections, starting on the high school side of the complex. He said the plan is to use a synthetic material, as opposed to metal, due to the various angles and bump outs.

He said the roof at Milo Elementary is also in need of replacement and he will be getting quotes for this project. “Unfortunately the leaks are going faster than we can fix them,” Watters said.

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